USA Goalkeeper Tim Howard makes a diving save

USA World Cup Goalkeeper Tim Howard makes a diving save

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in full swing, you might be curious what this game is all about, since most Americans are usually beginners when it comes to the sport of soccer, but beginners fear not! Soccer is a simple game, which may explain why it is the most popular sport in the world. Below is a guide explaining how to play and some of the rules.

Objective: The objective of the game is to win by scoring in the opposition goal and preventing the ball from going in your own goal. A team attempts to keep possession of the ball and create opportunities to score.

Basic set up: There are two teams of eleven players. Each with ten outfield players and one goalkeeper.

Positions: There are four basic positions; goalkeeper, defense, midfield and attack (striker).

  • Goalkeeper - A goalkeeper’s primary role is to prevent shots from going in the goal. Unlike all other players, they are allowed to use their hands, but only within the penalty area. Goalkeepers must be agile, strong and have very fast reactions to make flying saves.
  • Defender - Defender’s attempt to prevent the opposition from having any shots. They are good at tackling and passing to the midfield once they have won the ball.
  • Midfield - Midfield operate in the middle of the pitch(soccer field) and attempt to control the game, supply passes to the attackers, score some goals and help out the defense. Midfielder’s often have great endurance to get up and down the pitch.
  • Striker - A striker’s primary responsibility is to score goals, but they can also help defend their own goal as well. Strikers and defenders are often fast and strong.

Formations: The simplest formation is 4-4-2. This means, four on defense, four on midfield, two strikers and one goalkeeper. Different formations include 4-3-3, 3-5-2. Changing the formation changes the strategies of the team.

Commencing a game: A game starts with each team in their own half. One team “kick’s off” from the center spot (see below diagram). The game timer runs continuously until the end of a 45 minute half.

A soccer pitch:


Fouls, ball’s out of play and corners

When the ball goes out of play, the opposing team starts with it. If the ball goes out the side, it is a throw in. If the ball goes out behind either goal it is either a corner to the attacking team or a goal kick. If a foul is made the referee blow his whistle and either a penalty or free-kick is given. A penalty is only given when the defending team fouls within their own penalty area.

….and finally, the offside rule

Two players in an offside position for the attacking blue team

Two players in an offside position for the attacking blue team

In the image to the left, the two right-most blue players are in an off-side position because they are behind the last outfield defending player (this area is shown by the blue shaded zone). This alone is not a penalty. However, if the ball is passed to either of them by a team mate, they will commit an offside offence. To prevent this, they should step in line with the furthest right yellow player.

Learn more about the offside rule here.

With the World Cup going, why not head out and get involved in a game of soccer and learn all of this for yourself?

Keep up to date with our soccer blog here